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I remember the first time my parents tried to explain to me that we were moving to a new country. I was only three years old, but I remember my father teaching me the pronunciation of “hello.” Close enough to the Romanian “alo,” I was able to repeat it incessantly as we waited to leave Europe.

It took us a little over two years to finalize our immigration papers and get through the Communist requirements that left my parents unemployed for so many months that our family lost everything but each other. In April of 1982, we arrived in Houston. The sheer joy that my family felt when debarking the plane continues to this day every time we speak of our tribulations to get to America. Little did I know I would have many more ahead of me.

Like many foreign students entering American society, I set foot in the public school system unable to speak any English besides “hello.” Yet, experiencing such an overwhelming obstacle was a privilege, because it framed my empathetic nature in low-socioeconomic classrooms. While I was not the only non-English speaking student in first grade, I was the only one who did not speak Spanish in the English as a Second Language classroom. Learning to use cognates from Romanian to Spanish and English helped me later comprehend how to teach language arts to English Language Learners. When comparing current educational settings to my public education, I consider myself lucky in several respects.

The public schools I attended encouraged me to think abstractly, taught me to analyze using higher level thinking skills, sponsored my individual talents, and engaged my multiple intelligences. From these elementary experiences, I took away not only mental dexterity, but also memories that have defined expectations of successful school environments. Via my personal experiences as an ESL student, I know public education succeeds when school culture and curricula lead Americans to pursue their highest goals.

My foremost goal in life has been continuous education, whether it consists of life-long learning or discovery through teaching others. Since my parents never had the opportunities of higher education while growing up in a communist country, they instilled the value of education in me as I progressed through school in America. I have developed a deep respect for learning throughout my life, realizing that an education can never be taken away. For this reason, I look back on one of my most prevalent hurdles in life with sincere gratitude, knowing that I have maximized its moral while educating others.

 
 
For the past week, I've been in limbo about this blog post. I have wanted to write about many ideas bouncing around in my head, but then again, I want to make sure that I explain exactly where those ideas are coming from, since nowadays, people are quick to misjudge any show of patriotism.

Let me make several things clear:
1.) I was born in Romania, and immigrated with my family to the U. S. in 1982, during Ceausescu's regime.
2.) My parents had many trials receiving their American citizenship, which included the Communist Romanian government disallowing them to hold employment during the three-year application process.
3.) I spoke no English when I started first grade a few months after arriving in Houston; by second grade, I was fluent in English not because I was smart, but because to function and assimilate in America, I had to try my best to learn to communicate with other students and teachers.
4.) My parents have instilled in me a sense of responsibility and respect for the U. S. because this country has allowed our family to succeed, to further our education, and to build a solid foundation for future family members.

All in all, I am an American, and I am embarrassed that other immigrants who come to this country do not feel the same sense of patriotism for America that they do for their motherland. When I heard about what happened to the students who wore the American flag on Cinco de Mayo last week, I was livid.

I'm so tired of people who come to this country to use resources and enjoy freedoms, yet refuse to assimilate into American society, to improve and to build American culture with respect and responsibility. I'm annoyed at people who hate America, for whatever reason, but still reside here. I'm sick of people who have no clue how long and arduous legal immigration can be, and take living in this country for granted because they have never had to fight to be able to enjoy the rights and freedoms that come with being a citizen of this nation.

Yet, what really chaps my hide is the fact that the students at Live Oak High School who protested against their peers wearing American flags on Cinco de Mayo don't understand what America is about. The free speech double-standard Live Oak administration supported only propagates further abuse of the five founding American ideals: equality, rights, liberty, opportunity, and democracy.

When was the last time America cried no to outside flags, cultures, or religions? When did America last say, "You can't wear that because it disrespects my beliefs?" Why is wearing a symbol of freedom, justice, perseverance, and bravery misjudged as a symbol of racism, inequality, or discrimination? These students have no idea what they are protesting, or how their indignant behavior is affecting immigrants like me. I feel no sympathy towards these students; do they even know why they are celebrating Cinco de Mayo?

Obviously, we have not done an honorable enough job of teaching students what American patriotism means, and what it does not mean. It's time to remind Americans, because that's what you are when you live and breathe here, what this nation was built on: unity towards a better life.
 

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    cristina

    educator, student, yoga enthusiast, roller derby girl

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    The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employers, colleagues, friends, family, or pets. Thanks for visiting!

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